MOUNT VERNON — He didn’t need any runs, but he got 15 of them. Visiting East Knox Bulldogs’ pitcher Nate Friel tossed a four-hit shutout en route to his team’s 15-0 victory over the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets in the opening game of a non-conference tripleheader at Yellow Jackets Stadium on Saturday. Friel struck out six batters and didn’t yield a walk in the game.
“I was doing what I could to get ahead in the count,” Friel said. “First-pitch strikes are so important for a pitcher. Getting ahead in the count is the best thing you can do out there. I didn’t throw anything but fastballs and curveballs to them. I just reared back and threw it.”
It was a close game until the final inning, when the Bulldogs, leading 4-0, nearly batted around twice in the top of the seventh. They sent 16 batters to the plate, and in the process, scored 11 runs on five hits and five walks.
“We came into this game with a chip on our shoulder,” Friel said. “We wanted to show them that they may be a bigger school, but we can play too. Nothing feels better than going into that last inning with a comfortable lead.”
The Bulldogs touched up a parade of five Jackets’ pitchers for 13 hits and seven walks, while scoring a dozen earned runs. East Knox designated hitter Chase Lilly, who only went 1-for-2 in the game, perhaps did the most damage, Lilly drove in five runs and scored a run himself, while proving to be a tough out. Lilly broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fourth inning, coming to bat with teammates Dawson David and Kasson Krownapple in scoring position.
What followed between Lilly and Jackets’ starting pitcher Trenton Kane-Sapp was a 12-pitch battle of nerves. Lilly fouled off no less than seven pitches and worked the count full before giving Kane-Sapp’s 12th offering a ride into centerfield. The sacrifice fly ball was deep enough to score David easily from third and a bad throw to the catcher allowed Krownapple to round third and score, putting East Knox on top, 2-0.
“He was throwing curveballs and changeups, and I just knew that I couldn’t do anything with those.” Lilly said. “So, I just wanted to foul them back until I got a fastball. That way, I would be able to drive my two teammates in, because they did a great job getting on base.”
Lilly went on to do more damage with a 2-run single and an RBI walk when the Bulldogs broke the game wide open in the seventh inning.
“Sometimes it’s better to watch pitches go by and not swing at the first strike,” Lilly said. “Some people say that the first strike is the most important, but we like to rattle their defense a little bit. We just do what we have to do to score runs.”
Mount Vernon’s Caleb Fry managed a pair of hits against Friel, who also yielded a hit apiece to Blake Meyer and Aaron Stallard. Before Kane-Sapp was lifted, he gave the Jackets four innings of four-hit ball, walking one batter and striking out four. He only earned two of the four Bulldogs’ runs that they put up in the first four innings.
Ambidextrous pitcher Triston Taylor came on in the fifth and was effective for 1 2/3 innings, not giving up an earned run. Taylor was pulled after 49 pitches. After that, the Bulldogs racked up seven hits and five runs against three Mount Vernon relief pitchers.
“(East Knox) is a good baseball team,” said Mount Vernon coach Nate Hunt. “We knew they were going to swing it. Our pitching started off well. Then, late in the game, (East Knox) did a nice job of finding gaps.”
Cade Leach had three hits for the Bulldogs in four at bats, also reaching on a walk, driving in a run and scoring once. David and Krownapple each had a pair of hits and a pair of RBIs. Krownapple scored three times. David, along with teammates Kadden Lester (two walks) and Gage Steinmetz (1-for-4), each scored twice. Weston Melick got a pair of hits and scored once for the Bulldogs. Teammate Peyton Lester got a hit, an RBI and scored once.
After recently dropping a league game in Fredericktown and two more against Highland, the Bulldogs needed a lift.
“It was actually a tight game, most of the way,” said East Knox coach Randy Baugher. “We’re just trying to get ready for tournament. We were looking to get back on track against a good team.”
Fortunes reversed for both teams, later in the day. The Jackets defeated Licking Valley, breaking a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the sixth inning. Caleb Fry doubled to drive in Noah Gleason with the eventual deciding run. Carson Carpenter struck out three batters and scattered six hits over five innings. Will Small pitched two scoreless innings in relief for Mount Vernon.
The Bulldogs had no such luck. They got down early to Licking Valley, losing to them, 10-2. Kal Gallwitz struck out four in three innings, but yielded nine hits. In the meantime, the Bulldogs amassed 11 hits and drew a pair of walks in the game, but they only managed to put two runs on the board.
Kadden Lester, Steinmetz, Caleb Gallwitz and David, each had a pair of hits in the game. Lester and Steinmetz had the only Bulldogs’ RBIs.
The Bulldogs host Danville in a Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference game on Monday at 5 p.m. The two teams will take their fierce rivalry to Danville and play again on Tuesday.
The Jackets go to Clear Fork on Monday at 5 p.m. for a non-conference game.